BONNIE CASHIN Biography - Socialites, celebrities and People in the fashion industry


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Name: Bonnie Cashin                                                                     
Born: 1908                                                                             
Died: 2000                                                                             
Bonnie Cashin (1908 - 2000) is considered one of the most significant pioneers         
of designer ready-to-wear, more commonly called sportswear, in America. Among           
the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful designers of the 20th         
century, Cashin was revered for her intellectual, artistic, and independent             
approach to fashion. Treating clothing as collage or kinetic art, she sculpted         
designs from luxurious organic materials including leather and mohair, both of         
which she first championed as appropriate for high-end fashion, as well as tweed,       
mohair, cashmere, and wool jersey. She initiated the use of industrial hardware         
on clothing and accessories, most famously with the brass toggle that she               
incorporated into her handbag designs for Coach, the company for which she             
launched a women accessories division in 1962. Favoring timeless shapes from the       
history of world clothing, her staple silhouettes included ponchos, tunics, Noh         
coats and kimonos, all of which allowed for ease of movement and manufacture.           
Cashin is also credited with introducing the concept of layering to fashion.           
Born September 28, 1908, in Fresno, California, Cashin “apprenticed” with her       
dressmaker mother. She attended Hollywood High School, the Chouinard School of         
Art in Pasadena and the Art Students' League in Manhattan but had no formal             
training in clothing design. After designing costumes for chorus girls in Los           
Angeles, in 1933 Cashin moved to Manhattan to design for the Roxyettes, the in-house   
dance line at the Roxy Theater. From 1937 until 1942, she designed for coat and         
suit manufacturer Adler & Adler. In 1943, she returned to California to design         
costumes for over sixty films at Twentieth Century-Fox, including Laura (1944),         
Anna and The King of Siam (1946), and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1946). She used         
Fox’s libraries and leading ladies to develop ideas for “real” clothing and       
returned to ready-to-wear in 1949.                                                     
In 1950, Cashin received the Neiman Marcus Award and Coty Fashion Critic’s Award     
for her first return collection. Displeased, however, with her manufacturer’s         
control over her creativity and frustrated with designing only coats and suits,         
she began working with multiple manufacturers to design a range of clothing at         
different price points. This enabled her to create complete wardrobes for modern       
living. In the 1950s, her prices ranged from $14.95 for a plastic raincoat to $2,000   
for a fur kimono. At the time, it was unheard of for any designer to work for a         
variety of firms in so many different sectors of the business.                         
In 1953, Cashin teamed with leather importer Philip Sills and pioneered the use         
of leather for high fashion. Designing for her globetrotting lifestyle, she             
developed “layered” outfits, inspired by traditional Chinese dress, with the       
objective of creating a flexible wardrobe for modern nomads, whether a day’s         
travel was from country to country or city to suburb. In 1962, with Miles and           
Lillian Cahn, wholesale manufacturers of men’s wallets, she launched Coach as a       
women’s handbag and accessory firm. Her designer caché and her inimitable           
aesthetic kept her in constant demand. She designed for companies ranging from         
American Airlines to Hermès, and was the first American designer to have a             
boutique in Liberty's of London.                                                       
Without licensing her name, Cashin also designed knitwear, gloves, totes, at-home       
gowns and robes, raincoats, umbrellas, hats and furs. Among many other honors           
she received the Coty award five times, entering their Hall of Fame in 1972.           
In 1985 Cashin retired to focus on painting and philanthropy. She died in New           
York on February 3, 2000 from complications during heart surgery. Her designs           
are housed in many major museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum         
of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the         
Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Cashin label is         
currently dormant, but all rights to her name, designs, writings and                   
illustrations are held by the Bonnie Cashin Foundation, established by the             
executors of her estate.